Catherine Rose Irvine, 80, of Cedarbrook, a longtime Philadelphia School District employee and legislative aide, died at home Wednesday, June 6, of cancer.
Mrs. Irvine’s life centered on her family. She married Clarence Irvine in 1957, and the couple enjoyed 61 years of partnership in marriage and church work. They settled in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia and had four sons.
“Catherine loved being a wife, mother and nana, and was a dynamic member of her tight-knit community,” her family said.
Daughter-in-law Vicki Simmons said Mrs. Irvine was always energetic and cheerful.
“Even though she’s a guest in your home, if there’s one dish in the sink, she cannot sit still. She’s up, she’s running,” Simmons said. “She was never grumpy. She knew how to speak to people.”
Born in Philadelphia to Samuel and Clara Rose, she was known to friends as “Kitty,” or “Kat.” She graduated from Simon Gratz High School in 1955.
In the mid-1950s, Mrs. Irvine started her career as a secretary for Bell Telephone Co. She then worked as a kindergarten aide in Philadelphia, first at the Rudolph Blankenburg School in Mill Creek in the 1950s, and later at Dr. Ethel D. Allen School in Strawberry Mansion. She retired from the School District in 1993.
Never idle, Mrs. Irvine used her time in retirement to become involved in the community. She volunteered as a political aide to Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco and served in the city’s 50th Ward as a Democratic committee person.
Mrs. Irvine’s hard work and dedication to Tasco caught the attention of LeAnna Washington, who represented the 200th State Legislative District starting in 1993, and later, the Fourth State Senatorial District in Philadelphia. Washington hired Mrs. Irvine in 1993 as a legislative assistant.
“She was the first one I hired. She did constituent services for the people that came into the office with various problems. She was taking care of business, a no-nonsense kind of person,” Washington said.
Mrs. Irvine would point the constituent to the proper government agency for help. “She was loyal to the community and loyal to her job,” Washington said.
The two women developed a friendship. “Out of her working for me came a friendship and a sisterhood,” Washington said. “I’m going to miss her. You don’t find many people like Catherine Irvine.”
Mrs. Irvine was an active member of the Michener Avenue neighborhood. Every morning she could be found sweeping the street before walking around the neighborhood with her friends to get exercise.
She also was an active member of the 14th Police District Advisory Council and a key organizer of Wadsworth Day, a day of community-building and fellowship in the fall.
Mrs. Irvine was a faithful churchgoer at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cedarbrook. She was especially enthusiastic about her husband’s singing ministry. When he toured with the church’s male chorus, she went, too.
“She never missed a concert,” the family said.
When illness prevented her from leaving home, she logged on to the internet and participated remotely in the services at Enon.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Irvine is survived by sons Clarence Jr., Andre, Brian, and Gary; eight grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; a brother; and many nieces and nephews.
A viewing will be held starting at 8 a.m. Friday, June 15, at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, 230 W. Coulter St., Philadelphia, followed by a 10 a.m. memorial service. Interment is at Ivy Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.
Donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105, or via www.stjude.org.